Only the most outspoken businessmen can be affected by his family’s experience after the 1975 occupation of Laos by the Pathoti Lao Communists.
Nursing a craft beer in Bangkok’s BangBang Burgers at midnight, its latest boxing themed bar and restaurant, Sanya Souvanna Phouma looks under 50. But the serial entrepreneur, who helped create some of Bangkok’s most sophisticated entertainment and dining venues, reveals that his background in the tumultuous politics of Laos in the late 20th century gave him ideas and success in cosmopolitan Bangkok. – Helped to create. Their signature projects include Unique Music / Dining / Cabaret Combo Bed Superclub, Maggie Chose and Sing Sang.
There is a deep-rooted current of his business ideas, which is partly rooted in his family’s intense history. “I think I’ve been able to see what others can’t do because of my dual identity,” he says. “Maybe there’s something in my background that makes me want to see people enjoy themselves.”
For anyone who remembers the Vietnam War, Sanya’s grandfather, Suvana Foma, was a legendary figure – the longtime Prime Minister of Laos, a Western educated but of royal descent. A moderate attempt to maintain neutrality amidst civil strife.
In one of the most infamous events of this period, little Sania was sent to Bangkok’s Don Myung Airport to receive her grandfather, who was on a diplomatic mission to see King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. “I guess I was just as naughty as ever, so my grandfather had to call my name,” he says. “But the order was answered by the then Prime Minister of Thailand, also known as Sanya.”
History also has a way of coming into the whole circle. Today, Sania has embarked on two projects aimed at honoring her heritage and trying to deal with a tragic past that has engulfed her family (and with it, a country that I have never been that).
“Every time I go through the rituals in Laos, my heart beats,” says Sania. Therefore, he adds, “I have been planning a work on the history of the country for a long time, doing a lot of research on what happened until 1975, and how communism on a rural population. Imposed on those who were living. In peace. “
As Sanya puts it, the conquest of Laos by Pathat Lao had a lot to do with her step-uncle Sophanovong, one of the youngest sons of a prince who owned Luang Prabang, the royal capital of the so-called mainland. Was the last regent. One million elephants.
In search of a bride to marry in Vietnam, Sophanowong soon formed an alliance with Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese government and became a staunch supporter of Pathit Lao. Intending to take revenge on his more powerful siblings, he became known as the “Red Prince” in the process. Talking about the overthrow of the last king and queen of the country, whose DNA he keeps, Sania regrets his fate. “He died in captivity in the dark. It is a shame for the country, especially when one knows that the king had no problem becoming an ordinary citizen.”
The feud also led Sania’s father, Prince Pania, to flee Laos one night after swimming in the Mekong River. Sania says the prince had “nothing but a Rolex watch that my grandmother gave him.”
Although he was born in Laos, Sania spent her childhood in a colonial mansion in Bangkok, which was safely sheltered from war and family conflict. At the end of the war, he moved to France with his Thai mother, a member of the elite Bennag tribe, who later married the heir to the Benedictine brandy franchise. Sania lived a privileged life “in a very vibrant neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower.”
While studying business management, he felt drawn to more creative activities and Bangkok. “I had a feeling,” he says, that in Thailand “something big was waiting for me”, which was passing fast at the time – at least, Sanya joked, “until  The financial crisis hit as soon as I landed. “Falling with the bohemian mob, he took photographs, and even set out to try his hand at jazz-presenting radio DJs.
“I was burning to create something new,” he says, and the idea of combining a partner’s dance music with food in bed took him two years to raise funds and create a project called Bed Super Club. Became known as
“We were unknown in the business,” he says. “But the nightlife locations were very unrealistic at the time, and I found my calling trying to stimulate the five senses and showcase all the amazing abilities in Bangkok. Besides, it was always trying new things. There has been room for tolerance. “
The Bed Superclub will be angry for more than a dozen years. By this time, Sania had been inspired to work with techno baroque Australian designer Ashley Sutton, including later participating in the Iron Balls Bar and Jan Distillery And the old memories were focused on both. “I have always been fascinated by Asia. [that existed] First [U.S. soldiers’] GI Clubs … with all that blurry beauty, “he says.
At popular food and beverage venues such as Queens, Caf Luca and Cactus (which reflect the splendor of the mid-century “Palm Springs” in the fashionable Encarte district), Sania says, “I’ve always had quirky cabaret actors, Trying to find artists, LGBT actors. From the beginning with Queens, I’ve been promoting local products and responsible food. I can’t help but go a little against the grain. “
In addition to this attitude, the urgent need to return to its roots gave impetus to its most recent enterprise, Funky Lam. The latter is Lao for the word “dance”, which is always an ingredient for Sania, while “funky” comes from the New York chef’s description of Laos’ rough and interesting flavors.
Funky Lam gave Lao food, commonly found in back street stalls or huts, an atmosphere in a former motorcycle shop that turned into a base for war correspondents with rows of overhead helmets. , Neon lights, 1960s references and a big picture. A crocodile
“The crocodile was a hate symbol of the French. [during the colonial period in Laos]”And riding a bike is the best way to see the mountain roads behind Laos,” says Sania.
Started together with a cousin – a restaurateur in Siana Champask, France, who also has a Lao Prime Minister and whose grandmother is a deposed princess – Funky Lam’s menu brings Lao flavors to the world. In which specialty sauces are mixed. Ingredients such as fui grass, vagio and rainbow trout.
“We wanted to put these dishes at the Southeast Asian Food Restoration Center, to show that it’s not just food for maids and drivers,” says Sania.
Combinations such as Funky Flavor Set and Lao Bento have brought a variety of new dishes to Bangkok cuisine, including the Mekong Seaweed cracker. Moss pen And Lin saw (Charcoal Bell’s tongue) Also rare stew and soup and new mint, pepper-linked cocktails.
Launched in 2018, Sania’s latest project was hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19 and had to be shut down, leaving productive investors with two “comfortable Italian canteens” – Gigi’s dining hall. And 2 cafes of Gigi – and Lily Foz, an Asian bistro, and Bang Bang Burger (with live music). But the goal is to re-open Funky Lam in a new location this year.
“There’s a lot of feeling behind Funky Lam, a lot to be proud of my ancestors,” he says. “Ultimately, the main purpose was to make urban Thai people realize how much their favorite food, from Asan and Shamal, is really [neighboring] To change Laos impressions and get a little ‘de-Thai-ification’, you might say. Because it seems that no one from Laos has received the credit he deserves. “
It would be nice, Sania added, “to give this country some real identity.”